March 2015

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Photo 1: Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s stepmother, Photo 2: Lily James as Cinderella, Photo 3: Her Prince Charming (Richard Madden), Photo 4: Cinderella (Lily James) arrives at the ball


  • Photo Courtesy of DISNEY

“Have courage and be kind.” That is the message of an updated take on a tale as old as folk lore – Cinderella.

The story was first brought to life on the silver screen by Disney in 1950, and reprised many times since in versions starring Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Houston, and a number of others. But before the advent of cinema, Cinderella had been passed down for generations on the continent of Europe. Whether you call her Cinderella, Aschenputtel (German), Cenerentola (Italian), Cendrillon (French) or Zolushka (Russian), she is a character that has warmed the hearts of children and adults alike for as long as anyone alive can remember.

But perhaps the most visually stunning rendition of this timeless classic will be released on March 13 when Director Kenneth Branagh (screenplay by Chris Weitz of American Pie and About a Boy fame) brings the tale to life in a new live action film from Walt Disney, and with a decidedly modern air.

The story remains largely in line with Disney’s original animated feature. Why mess with a winner? The story follows the life of Ella (Lily James) whose father remarries after her mother’s death. After welcoming her new stepmother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), and her two new step sisters Drisella and Anastasia (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger, respectively) into the home, her father also dies, leaving Ella at the mercy of her new family. As the story goes, she is consigned to a life of servitude by her wicked new family, destined to live out the rest of her life among the ashes of the hearth, and the mice of the home.

But as with all fairy tales, what appears to be the end is only a new beginning. Among two major changes in the story lines, Cinderella accidentally meets her charming prince (Richard Madden) before the ball, while riding in the woods. He pretends to be only a palace servant, but regardless of his deception, at this point the die is cast. After a visit by her fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham-Carter)—who plays a much larger role in this version than those in the past—our heroine indeed attends the ball, and ends up with her prince.

Cinderella made its worldwide premiere, and was well received, at the Berlin Film Festival on February 13 of this year. But what could have been a drab and safe remake of the same old story was made a bit more relevant for our modern times. Branagh has Ella and Prince Charming meet on equal footing with the intent of casting aside the image of a girl needing to be saved, and portraying Cinderella as a heroine in her own right. Known widely for vast body of work on Shakespeare, Branagh sees little difference in the lessons taught by the plays of the bard and those of classic fairytales.

“We have the line Cinderella is told by her mother: ‘Have courage and be kind’; some people thought it seemed trite, but I was reminding them of King Lear when Edgar says ‘Have patience and endure’ at the point he’s being put in the stocks and mocked,” Branagh told The Guardian. “Patience to me equates to compassion, and endurance is a form of courage—it reminded me that these basic, human and fundamental situations get seized on by great storytellers and there are obvious resonances between all these stories.”

Although we equate Cinderella with childhood, this new film from Disney promises to show audiences of all ages that the lessons of the story are all too relevant today. The archetype of Cinderella, underestimated and beat down, but finally getting her due, will certainly resonate with moviegoers. And the words of wisdom Ella’s mother imparts on her death bed to her daughter, to “have courage and be kind,” could not have come at a better time.

Grab your kids, your special someone, your stage coach and your glass slippers, and head out to rediscover a classic.

Cinderella opens nationwide on March 13.

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